Current NorthStar Volunteers
Marcel Polak has lived in Woodstock, Maine for 40 years with Emily Ecker. During that time he has worked as a waiter, potter, co-founder/Executive Director of Mahoosuc Land Trust, land conservation consultant, and real estate broker, etc. He also received an M.S. from Antioch New England Graduate School in Natural Resources Management and Administration. Two of his proudest accomplishments are section hiking the AT from South Kinsman in NH to Katahdin in Maine and recently hiking the 48 – 4000’ peaks in the White Mountains with Emily.
Marcel and Emily’s daughter, Rachel, grew up in Woodstock and attended SAD 44 in grades K-12. Marcel serves on the SAD 44 School Board and wanted to have more direct meaningful experiences with students. He has greatly enjoyed sharing great outdoor experiences, like camping and bicycling at Acadia National Park and canoeing the Androscoggin River, with NorthStar students.
Nancy grew up in New York and went to college at the University of Vermont. She became involved in the Outing Club there and developed a love for rock and ice climbing, mountaineering, paddling, biking, hiking, and outdoor education. This led to working at Outward Bound schools in North Carolina, Maine, and Oregon. Nancy finally settled in Newry, Maine to work at the Hurricane Island Outward Bound land base in 1982 and has lived in the area ever since. She enjoys volunteering in the community, mountain biking, and traveling.
“When my son entered kindergarten in 2002 and I helped in the classroom on a weekly basis, I began to see that many students in SAD44 could use more guidance and support than one teacher could offer. While the school Principal suggested a mentoring program and I “adopted” a couple of kids myself, a formal program was never developed. So when I heard of a mentoring program coming to the middle/high school a year or two ago, I was delighted, intrigued, and eager to be a part of it.
I believe the NorthStar program, run by Lyndsey Smith, is just what this community needs. There is now a 7th-grade and an 8th-grade group and I have been on trips that have involved kids from both grades. I really like that kids have elected to participate, and bring different interests and backgrounds to the group. Lyndsey is a wonderful person to have at the helm. She cares a lot for the kids, is well organized, explains things clearly, understands that people make mistakes, addresses issues that arise, and juggles all the different families’ needs in an amazing way.
In the NorthStar program, the kids are able to do things that will broaden their horizons – academically, physically, socially. Our trip to the Common Ground Fair last fall involved seeing many interesting exhibits, as well as camping out and volunteering at the compost station. We spent a couple of days on campus at UMO during the February break – touring the campus, asking questions of UMO students, participating in a dairy lab, doing a hands-on engineering project, touring the dairy operation as well as getting to climb on a climbing wall and use the swimming pool.
One of the 7th grade boys told me he wasn’t going to go to college. But watching him build a bridge (as part of a small group) with spaghetti and a glue gun, and the initiative and leadership I saw in him, I’m wondering if a program like NorthStar might cause him to reconsider. Later, on the climbing wall, the same student would go up a short ways then want to come down. But then he would try again and get further. That continued until he reached the top! On his final climb of the afternoon, another student did the climb next to him to encourage him on the final moves at the top. It was a glory moment for all.
Other NorthStar activities I’ve joined have included snowshoeing, sewing, ice fishing, and more climbing. Each activity has drawn different kids and offered new experiences. I’ve enjoyed seeing the interactions of the kids, their increasing competence, and them learning to deal with different issues.
I am so pleased that the NorthStar mentoring program is in our community and am delighted to be part of it.”
— Nancy Babcock, 2019
Carl got a B.S. in Microbiology from Penn State and a Ph.D. in Biochemistry from Hahnemann University in Philadelphia (now Drexel) and worked as a research molecular biologist for twenty years, most recently for ten years at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Veterinary Medicine where he studied chromosome packaging and gene regulation. In 2004 he and his family moved to Norway. Carl learned carpentry working in construction for a couple of years before co-founding and teaching at Ganderia Middle School. There he developed an integrated, project-based curriculum grounded on a sense of place and community engagement. Carl currently coordinates the Let’s Go! program for Western Maine Health, promoting healthy eating and active living in Oxford County. He serves on the board of directors for the Bryant Pond Learning Center, Western Foothills Land Trust, and Oxford County Cooperative Extension. Carl loves growing food, cooking, spending time with his three grown sons, Ben, Nick, and Dan, and his grandson Rocco and exploring the natural world with a camera.
“I love the way we are getting to know these young people through group experiences. Each time their guard drops a little more and the trust builds a little stronger.”
— Carl Costanzi, 2019
Tara is a 4-H Professional at the University of Maine 4-H Camp and Learning Center in Bryant Pond. She is genuinely interested in the development of young people, supports connection to the community, and fosters learning through experience. Her roles as an educator with the Telstar Freshman Academy and Waterfront Coordinator for summer camp provide meaningful opportunities for her to engage with youth. In her free time, Tara can be found in her garden, snowboarding, knitting, sailing, or picking up Legos left on the floor by her five-year-old son.
“Tara is so sweet and caring, she’s always there for us and she treats us like one of her own”
— Cheyenne Palmer, TFA Student 2019
“Attending the Common Ground Country Fair with Lyndsey and NorthStar 7th and 8th graders was extremely enjoyable. I was so proud of how well they worked with the Compost and Recycling Team to process the immense amount of waste produced at the fair. It was evident that they were proud of themselves as well.”
— Tara Pocock, 2019